House Bill Aims to Address Mental Health Workforce Shortage

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A bill introduced in the House this week would establish a loan repayment program for mental health care providers who commit to working in designated communities with a lack of accessible care. The Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act of 2019 (H.R. 2431), introduced by Representatives John Katko (R-NY) and Grace Napolitano (D-CA), seeks to address a critical shortage in the number of mental health care providers across the country.

While around 18 – 20% of the American population lives with some form of mental illness in any given year, there are only enough mental health care professionals across the country to meet around 26% of the need for services, and the gaps are much higher for residents in rural areas. Projections included in a 2016 report from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) show that, unless these trends are reversed, this shortage will grow astronomically worse by 2025 and will result in shortages of over 250,000 full-time equivalents across certain behavioral health provider types. Establishing loan repayment programs, such as the one proposed in H.R. 2431, could help to incentivize qualified students to pursue careers in the mental health field and contribute to changing this outcome.

“It is imperative we create a sustainable workforce of therapists, psychologists, and counselors who can meet the mental health care needs of the nation,” said Rep. Katko upon introduction. “This legislation incentivizes mental health care professionals to practice in underserved communities, improving access to treatment and improving the quality of care. Rep. Napolitano added, “We have no time to waste. We need robust investment in mental health in America.”

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